SHAMANS | LANDSCAPES | META | CATRINAS | ABSTRACTS
None of my landscapes are of real places—other than that they must be close by where my shamans live. Call them “unearned memories” that live within me and come to life only when I paint.
"Southern Range" 10x10" Acrylic on Panel.
From Dry Canyon reaching north toward the southern flank of the Santa Rita Mountains, the grasslands mount slowly as the ripples of land vault ever higher, a standing wave of earth and dry grass.
"November 18th" 16" x 16" Acrylic on panel.
This was to be my last winter in school. If I had gotten the grant and been able to continue on as a postdoc, things might have turned out differently. But word had come down early that the positions planned had already been cut. It was November 18th—the day before my birthday. I’ll never forget. On hearing the news, I climbed into my used-up Jeep and headed into the woods north of town. I took a rutted track not seen before and skidded my way down the rocky shoulder of a hill, gunning it when I had to... and sometimes more than I had to. And I came upon this place of ancient hardwoods and layered moss. The cooling engine ticked like crickets under the floorboards of my apartment. My jaw was set but my heart was empty. And I saw this one old tree and a pale light behind and I began to wonder about the world all over again. It had been standing here since before my dad had been born, I guessed. It had been busy doing tree things. And it didn’t much care, I guessed, about tomorrow. But as dusk had gathered and there was a hint of fog rising above the water, it had become a gateway of sorts; a guardian to the glimmer beyond. For the first time in my life, I felt the demands of tomorrow take second position to the fortunes of now and for the first time in my life I decided to keep on going in spite of everything—to climb that wrinkled hill and walk into that ghostly light and to keep on going into the darkness of an unsuspecting night.
"Too Late" 16" x 16" Acrylic on Panel
We had a plan. It was always a Thursday. It was always noon. High noon. She would get there first, having told anyone there to ask that she was headed to the visiting library they opened up every week in Hemmon—just across the county line. She’d be first, but by no more than a half an hour, and she’d stand beneath Sentinel Tree watching for me. Sometimes it might be harder for me to slip out, and my brat brother watched me like a little plaid-shirted Chicken Hawk. But I usually made it clean away in time enough, and I’d run to feel the wind in my face, watching the rise of the sun. And I’d see her there. And she’d half run half slide down that big hill until we tumbled into each other’s arms, all laughs and wantings. And the plan for that last Thursday was no different except that we were never going home except to make our own. But this Thursday. This one most important Thursday in all my life, a calf had gotten out and there were all three of us boys out there chasing it and I got away late. But I ran for my new life. I ran for us. I ran for the future we had dreamed and the family we would make. But this Thursday—this one damn most important Thursday of all time, though I ran like the wind, though my feet barely touched down, when I ran up around Sentinel Hill I could see that the shadows were just a little long. And when I wiped the dust and tears from my eyes and looked up the hill, she wasn’t there. Too late.
"Near Rail X Crossing" 16" x 16" Acrylic on Panel
They said that if you followed Monkey Springs up past the Indian caves with thier strange, scratched drawings, beyond the crusted overhang of pitted and fragile rock, you would find wild watercress growing, and that if you picked a bit and continued on up there was a place with a salt lick and just beyond that a cottonwood as large as you could still find—a place perfect for a picnic... or for weeping alone. A place of beauty where none would see or hear. I would find that place now. And I’d decide later about the picnic.
"Off Oak Creek Road" 16" x 16" Acrylic on Panel
Behind those trees to the left, if you look closely, you’ll see that there are remains of an old rail line. Little remains but patches of gravel and occasional almost-not-there ruts about as far apart as a small boy can spit. And if you’ve got the day for it and a good eye and strong hand, you can still come away with a spike or two. Or even an arrowhead, maybe. But I’ve been told by folks wiser than I am that it is best to leave such things be. Note their shapes and weights in a little book, perhaps. The heft of a spike and the notches on the stone can tell a story if you find enough over the years. But best leave them. Best not take anything at all. Because there are stories are about ghosts who claim these parts on moonless nights, and they’ll know you’ve been here even if you take no more than a dozen steps and only half that many breaths.
"South of Heartline" 16" x 16" Acrylic on Panel
South of Heartline is where I grew to girlhood and then became a woman. Jack and I were just friends all those years—laughing in the back of the bus as kids and making pleasantries when we ran into each other at the drugstore or, later, at the school where we had both become teachers. He was short for most men his age, but I never really noticed but the first time. I had a reputation as a bookworm. And one cold morning during a fire drill when we were huddling unabashedly close to fight the chill, I fell in love. Luckily for me, I found out later that evening that he had, too. With me. Turns out we both wanted to go back and burn down that school ourselves before it got to be light.
illow Creek 16"x16" Acrylic on Panel
There is this place called Willow Creek up in Overton County. There may be ten places by that name spread through the flatlands of this area alone. And though there are not really all that many willows there, well, there are enough for the name to stick. But this one place is special in my mind because that’s where the old women of my clan used to go to gather wood for brooms and switches and baskets. When I was a little girl, my grandmother would take me up there sometimes and show me the old ways. I thought she was crazy and I was mostly bored except for when a fish would slap the water in an otherwise silent world. I would watch her rough hand trail along a branch as though feeling for gnawing insects inside. She said she was listening to its spirit. Witchcraft, I thought. Well, the Council came to her when they needed a shaman. When her husband died (he was NOT my father) she brought his pipe here and buried it. And when she dies, she has told me more than once, she wants to be brought here for her rites and to feed the willows and become the creek.
The air is now chill and the sky lowering. Autumn remains, but sullen, and I am lost, How did I come upon this place at this time? There must have been a road or path, but as I turn, astonished, I see none.
Summer. A haze of ennui has drifted over you–lazily–unnoticed at first. You head home, but tentatively. There seems no point. All colors are the same, as are all the days and all the nights, the air still and holding no promise. You look at your shoes and wonder whether the feet they hold have somehow found the sudden end of a path you did not know you were on. Then you look up and see magic. The grass is yellow rather than green. And the distant sky–just there beyond that rise–has an intensity you’ve never seen before. Your shoulders turn with your eyes and you take a step. “That way!” cries the voice of the child within. And you take another step, and then another, having decided without thought to fall into that infinite blue, thinking that something mysterious and wonderful could wait for you there, just beyond, if you were to go, for the very first and very last time, the long way home.
This high desert country can measure the soul of both woman and man, huddled within itself as Winter’s winds shriek and cold sinks to bone. Cattle shelter against themselves. And in Summer’s fat heat the grass can ignite as though touched aflame by the devil’s own tongue, and the sky turn marsala-red such that your fingers seem dipped in wine as you lift your head to search within those dry clouds for a hint of the rain that refuses to come.
"Meta One" 48" x 48" Acrylic on canvas.
"Meta Two" 48" x 48" Acrylic on canvas.
"Procyon" 16"x16" Acrylic on panel.
"The Whispers of Deneb" 36" x 36" Acrylic on canvas.
"This Is What Democracy Looks Like" 36" x 36" Acrylic on canvas.
"The Hubris of Certainty" 36" x 36" Acrylic on canvas.
"Bird In Flight" 36" x 36" Acrylic on canvas.
I touched your wing and felt the universe electric, waves of possibility echoing into nothing and everything: all illusion. I see you from the crests of different hills within that spectrum, which is mere artifice drawn by itself. But here, for your pleasure alone, I touch those contrapuntal nodes you perceive as colors and to which you give many names. And I make within you questions newly asked. And I... I do not know whether the cat lives still, nor do I care.
"The Open Window" 36" x 36" Acrylic on canvas.
Life is a chaotic melange of real and unreal in which questions are free to answer themselves and pattern (in all but the mathematical sense) is meaningless illusion. So we create joy as only we may know it. We organize everything, because consciousness demands no less. And because in an infinite universe we are infinitely small; we create the outrider to push back the dark, to measure some measure and to oversee all.
"The Atacama Conspiracy" 36" x 36" Acrylic on canvas.
Shhhh.... No one must know. There lies beneath this rattling air, beneath layer on layer of sand upon stone, the machine of our God, seeing with eyes closed. Silicon. Magnetite. Copper. Greenish bile and bloodless bone. None who look upon its face live to tell. But I believe. I must. I was told by my father those ages ago, who was told by his father as well. And who am I to question their words? They must have heard tales from those who did know, those messengers not of sinew made who spoke to the ancients and said it was so.